Jewish Cemetery in Oran Razed

Workers in the Jewish cemetery of Oran, Algeria, have begun exhuming bodies in the century old Jewish burial place which is to be razed on Algerian government orders for a highway linking Oran to Algiers. Former Algerian Jews now in France are financing the exhumation as the local authorities were planning simply to destroy the graves and bury the bodies in a communal grave. Several former Oranese chief rabbis are buried in the cemetery.

In a gesture of “appeasement,” the Algerian government has decided to remove a local mosque from the city’s main synagogue building. The mosque took over the building which housed one of the country’s oldest and best known synagogues, two years ago. Under a recent government ruling a local social and cultural club will be housed in the building. Eye-witness reports from Oran say that workers have already started removing prayer stands, carpets and objects of worship from the building and the entire removal is due to be completed within a fortnight.

There are only about 40 Jews, mainly elderly, left in Oran where 35,000 Jews lived before the country’s independence. A representative of the city’s former Jewish community is currently in Oran to supervise the cemetery exhumations and to cooperate with the authorities in the removal of the mosque from the synagogue building. Most of the synagogue’s objects of worship have been transferred to newly-established synagogues in France serving former Algerian Jews.

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